As temperatures continue to rise, so does the potential threat posed by the Dengue virus, a recent study warns. Researchers at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Kerala have uncovered a disquieting connection between escalating temperatures and the virulence of the Dengue virus (DENV), shedding light on a pressing concern for regions plagued by recurring outbreaks of this tropical disease during the monsoon season.
The research, published in the prestigious FASEB journal, has significant implications for predicting and mitigating the severity of Dengue, which burdens the world with an estimated 390 million cases annually.
Dengue, transmitted by mosquitoes, showcases varying degrees of virulence depending on environmental factors. The RGCB study demonstrates that the virus becomes notably more potent when grown in mosquito-derived cells and exposed to higher temperatures. This discovery underscores the complex interplay between the virus, its host, and environmental conditions.
Easwaran Sreekumar, the lead researcher at RGCB, explains, “Dengue being a mosquito-transmitted disease, the ability of the causative virus to grow in the cells of mosquito as well as in humans is a critical factor in viral virulence.” The team’s groundbreaking work reveals that DENV cultured at higher temperatures within mosquito cells exhibited heightened virulence compared to those grown at lower temperatures.
Ayan Modak, Srishti Rajkumar Mishra, Mansi Awasthi, and their team delve deeper into the implications of this revelation. They caution that elevated temperatures during seasons of increased mosquito activity, fueled by intermittent rainfalls, could lead to the emergence of more virulent Dengue strains, thereby exacerbating the disease’s impact on human health.
The researchers’ concerns extend to the larger context of global warming. “Our study alludes to the growing implications of global warming and its possible effects on infectious disease dynamics,” they emphasize, highlighting the potential ripple effects of environmental changes on public health.
Previous observations have hinted at the relationship between higher temperatures and a shortened virus incubation period in mosquitoes, facilitating increased human transmission. The RGCB study, conducted in a mouse model, has now added another layer to this understanding. The virulent strains grown under higher temperature conditions induced more pronounced presence of the virus in the blood, hemorrhages, severe tissue damage in vital organs, and even fatalities – the hallmark signs of severe Dengue.
In a world grappling with the growing burden of Dengue, the study’s implications are profound. RGCB Director Professor Chandrabhas Narayana underscores the urgency of the issue, stating, “This study has major implications in predicting the severity of Dengue outbreaks.” As global efforts to combat Dengue continue, this research provides crucial insights into a dynamic and evolving threat, emphasizing the need for proactive measures to address the intersection of climate, disease, and human health.